MPs and Peers from across the parties turned out to show their support for continued investment in the countryside through Brexit and beyond at an event in Parliament organised by the CLA yesterday (25 October).
The event highlighted how after the UK ends its participation in the Common Agricultural Policy, a new framework for investing in the countryside can be delivered that better meets the needs of rural Britain. Among those lending their support were Defra Minister Lord Gardiner, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sue Hayman and former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
CLA President Ross Murray said: “The British countryside provides us with food, fresh air, iconic landscapes and a rich diversity of wildlife. These features are vital for everyone, not least the millions of people who live in, work in, or enjoy visiting rural areas.
“There is still a long way to go in the crucial discussions about exactly how we invest in our agriculture and our landscapes after Brexit. I am delighted that today’s event has shown the commitment of MPs and Peers from across all parties to rural communities. We should be in no doubt that the rural economy, productive agriculture as our primary land use and our landscapes remain a priority for public investment.
“That is why we have brought The Countryside Matters campaign to the heart of Westminster to unite those who love the countryside and believe it should remain a vital national priority for government.”
Neil Parish MP and chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said: “As a nation we ask so much of the countryside, from putting food on our plates and providing habitats for wildlife, to reducing flood risk, storing carbon and giving us all space to get out in the fresh air. These crucial contributions, and the needs of people living and working in rural areas, must never be overlooked. This is why I am backing the CLA’s Countryside Matters campaign, and supporting the CLA’s work to showcase why farming, the countryside and the rural economy should be a priority for national investment.”
A YouGov poll carried out over the summer revealed that more than eight out of 10 people (84%) think the Government should spend money on preserving and managing the countryside, with 61% saying that the current spend of £3billion per year is either the right amount of public money to spend on it (40%) or too little (21%).
Just over a quarter (27%) said the landscape was the feature they most enjoy about visiting the countryside and just under half (44%) knew that farmers and landowners are responsible for managing it.
42% of people surveyed thought food production should be one of the top priorities for government investment in the countryside with flood management, enhancing wildlife and planting trees coming close behind.
Mr Murray added: “Managing the landscape, producing quality food and planting trees bring benefits to everyone but they require investment. We have a unique opportunity post-Brexit to ensure farmers and landowners are better recognised for undertaking this vital work.”
If you believe in a vibrant, living and working countryside then you believe the countryside matters. Support the CLA’s call for continued investment in the countryside by signing up at www.thecountrysidematters.org, back the campaign on Twitter @clatweets and tell us why the countryside matters to you using the hashtag #thecountrysidematters.